Baron Baptiste teaches that “any moment that happened in the past is a memory, and any moment that will happen in the future is a fantasy.” Take a moment to reflect on this. What does this mean to you? What does this mean to be present?
To be “present” is to exist in the moment. To be aware of what is happening in the now. The past and the future are enabled by your mind’s ability to remember and to foresee, yet these thoughts often keep you from being present and in the moment, right here, right now.
In yoga, being present is important to growth. Change doesn’t happen all at once, change happens one shift at a time, and if you’re not focused on the present moment, you could miss it. Being somewhere other than the “now” in your yoga practice can lead to injury. When your focus is distracted or you’re thinking of what comes next in your life, you could overexert yourself or miss a key cue from the yoga instructor that could prevent injury. Say, for example, the yoga instructor tells you not to move your neck from side to side in bridge, and you miss this cue, you could injure your cervical spine.
It is normal to drift while on the mat to focusing on your responsibilities for the day or on what you could have done differently earlier. Yet, to be present means that you need to be aware of when your mind drifts like this and to bring your thoughts back to the present. The best way to be present on the mat is to be in your body, observing how you feel and what sensations are coming to the surface as you move through your yoga sequence. To come into the breath and to come back whenever you drift is another sure way to get back to the present moment. You may find yourself doing this many time during your yoga practice, but this is okay too. Just keep coming back. Make the effort to regroup and bring your attention back to your breath and to your body.
Try using these techniques off the mat as well. When you find you mind drifting during moments at work or with your family, come back to your breath, come back to the present moment.